Amazon sees AI, machine learning, and drones as prime opportunity for UK expansion

In a further commitment to its long-term UK investment, Amazon plans to add 400 staff to its R&D centre in Cambridge to focus on AI, machine learning, and drones.

Engineers hired to work at the centre will include “machine learning scientists, knowledge engineers, data scientists, mathematical modelers, speech scientists, and software engineers.” The new employees will be working on the future of Amazon’s products and services – including the Echo and Kindle lines, and Prime Air drones.

“By the end of this year, we will have more than 1,500 innovation-related roles here in Britain, working on everything from machine learning and drone technology to streaming video technology and Amazon Web Services,” noted Doug Gurr, Amazon’s U.K. country manager.

Amazon says the UK is an important business for the company and will be concentrating its scientific development work in London, Cambridge, and Edinburgh due to the machine learning talent on offer in these locations. Prior to the end of the year, Amazon plans to add 5,000 British employees, open a 600,000 sq ft headquarters, and three new fulfillment centres in the UK.

Employees will be working on the future of Amazon’s products and services

The move follows similar expansion commitments from other tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, and will help to alleviate fears the UK will become less desirable post-Brexit to set up business.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: "This is fantastic news – Amazon's increased investment in developing cutting-edge technology in Cambridge is another vote of confidence in the UK as a world-leading centre of invention and innovation."

Since 2010, the company has invested £6.4 billion in its UK operations and conducted some of its most groundbreaking trials in the country. In December last year, Richard Barnes, a Cambridgeshire farmer, put in an order for a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Fire TV stick and received it within 12 minutes by an Amazon Prime Air drone.

 

Part of what makes the UK so attractive for businesses is the ease of setting up and running new operations. Incorporating a company can be completed in an hour, for £14, and tax authorities understand new companies generally aren’t profitable in their early years.

UK regulators are often also friendly to new innovations. The country has been noted for being one of the most forward-thinking in enabling driverless car tests, and Amazon is thankful of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority for working alongside the company to grant it permission to operate multiple drones in the Cambridge area.

Amazon’s Chief Executive of Worldwide Consumer Retail, Jeff Wilke, is on record praising UK regulators for their flexibility and says he hopes it will spur international counterparts, including the US Federal Aviation Administration, to follow suit.

What are your thoughts on Amazon’s latest UK expansion? Let us know in the comments.

 

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